MEP using an international team to attract the foreign vote

Ole Christensen, an MEP for Socialdemokraterne since 2004, is running for his third term in the European Parliament. According to his campaign materials, ‘EU’ is his middle name and one of his missions is to get as many non-Danish EU voters as possible to the ballot box on May 25.

Why internationals?
Simon Møller Eliasson is the leader of Christensen’s EU election campaign. 

“Ole has a very international view on things,” he said.

“He believes in equal rights and thought that internationals should also play a role in his campaign team. That is why he made an international campaign team.”

Not forgetting the Danes
While most of Christensen’s Aalborg-based campaign is directed at Danish voters, the MEP regards other EU citizens in Denmark as an important part of the electorate. 
According to figures from the European Commission, in 2012 they numbered 145,000.

Vote please
“In Denmark we have this system where, as an EU citizen, you have to register to vote,” Eliasson explained.

“Part of the international team’s job was to inform people that they have the right to vote. At the last European Parliament election a lot of people didn’t register.”

80 percent of EU nationalities
Narcis George Matache, a Romanian studying marketing in Aalborg, is the leader of the international campaign team.

Matache and his team, which represents 80 percent of the nationalities of the EU and includes about 50 volunteers, visited universities, halls of residence and language schools encouraging people to get registered to vote. They have also been active on social media. “It was a lot of fun and an amazing experience,” he said.

Sceptical reception
But the team wasn’t always met with enthusiasm. “We did some campaigning door-to-door. Our best results were when we used a Norwegian volunteer. Other times people were sceptical about opening the door to someone who doesn’t look Danish,” Matache said.

“Also, using English was not well-received. Some people actually complained about us campaigning in English.”

A worthwhile experience
But Matache emphasises that the experience was worthwhile. “When people respond nicely it reminds you of why you do it,” he said. 

“Most of the volunteers had never made contact with a Danish person before. It’s as though there are two societies – Danes and internationals – and they rarely mix.”

Internationals can contribute
For Matache, the experiences of the team dovetail with Christensen’s policies. “That is one of Ole’s aims: to include internationals in Danish life,” he said. “They should be treated equally. Internationals can contribute to society.”

“When foreigners I know apply for a job, most don’t even get an answer. If I count the people who came to Denmark as students at the same time as me five years ago, there were about 300 of us. Now there are only about ten left – the rest have moved back to their home country or to another country like the UK.”

Factfile: EP

751 MEPs will be elected (a scaling down from the current 766 seats)

The term of MEPs is five years

Most MEPs operate through transnational political groups (33 of the current MEPs do not)

Factifile: Timescale

The elections must be held in the member states between May 22 and May 25

The election will take place in Denmark on May 25

The results from all 28 states will be announced on the evening of May 25

The deadline for getting onto the electoral register was April 22

Factfile: Denmark's representation

Denmark will elect 13 MEPs

There are 100 candidates competing for the 13 Danish seats

Seats are allocated according to the D’Hondt method – seats are first allocated to the parties, and then the number of personal votes for each candidate determines which of the parties’ candidates get them

At the last European Parliament elections in 2009, there was a 59.5 percent turnout in Denmark (the EU average was 43.1 percent)

EU citizens who are 18 or over and a resident in the country can vote in their Danish constituency – providing they are registered

In 2009, there were just 16,800 EU citizens from other countries on the electoral register in Denmark out of 97,000 residents here

EU citizens who have not registered in Denmark may still be able to vote in their home country